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When Mark of the Beast and End Times Outrank Available Evidence, Conspiracies Follow

Since January 2013, writers at Irregular Times have been pointing out the problems in the conspiracy theory insisting that the “Obamacare” health care law requires all Americans to be forcibly implanted with RFID-trackable microchips starting this year. The biggest problem with this claim is empirical: if you read the text of the law yourself, you’ll notice that no such mandate actually exists.

Yet despite the empirical reality that the Obamacare law contains no provision for RFID-trackable implanted microchips, visitors to Irregular Times continue to insist in our comments section that the plan is coming to pass. Strikingly, they use eschatalogical Christian language of the “end times” leading up to an apocalypse. A sample:

“People want to hide their secrets but now with those chips thing… That’s a cruel thing. I have read in the bible that it is a Mark Of the Beast. why Obama you did this ;(

…Good luck to you when you eventually die and see the gates of Heaven closed to you. The mark of the beast will be taken in the forhead or in the RIGHT HAND. I’m trying my best to put the 666 together. I’ve already got the first: B-A-R-A-C-K

…If that chip is to signify the mark of the beast then in the end every one will be forced to have one those who don’t get the implant will be executed. Or put into special camps because we don’t fit into obamas plan without the chip wait you’ll see the next 3 yrs or so it’s all going to get ugly. So which side are you goin to be on Obama or our lord GODS I know what side I’m on and it’s not obamas.”

Is the rise in this kind of conspiracy theory associated with a rise in Christian eschatalogical thinking in America? Is the acceptance of theories that contradict observable reality associated with a rejection of the importance of observable reality? To obtain a measure of the cultural trends that might produce such credulity in the face of available evidence, I’ve consulted the Google Ngrams dataset. The Ngrams search tool produces data showing how often English-language phrases appear in the millions of books that Google has scanned for inclusion in its Google Books database. I’ve sub-selected the corpus of English-language books published in the United States. The y-axis in the graph below marks how often the phrases “mark of the beast” and “end times” (two key phrases from Christian eschatology) appear, compared to “available evidence suggests” and “statistical trend” (two key phrases from the empiricist community), measured as their proportion of all phrases in books. The x-axis in the graph measures the trend in the appearance of these phrases across the years 1900 to 2008, the last year for which data is available.

Appearance of Phrases in Books,1900-2008: end times, mark of the beast, available evidence suggests and statistical trend

If what’s being written about in books is a reasonable marker of cultural trends, then over the past generation a trend is clear: while discussion of a “statistical trend” remains flat and notes of what “available evidence suggests” have fallen, mentions of “end times” and the “mark of the beast” have soared. We’re less occupied in what’s in front of our eyes and more occupied with what is supposed to exist behind a murky veil.

3 comments to When Mark of the Beast and End Times Outrank Available Evidence, Conspiracies Follow

  • Dave

    Great model. I noticed that the upward trends for “mark” and “end times” begin in the early 1970’s, the same time as the publication of Hal Lindsey’s book The Late Great Planet Earth, at the height of the “Jesus Movement.” It has sold in the millions. Israel’s six day war, rapid development in computer technology, the Cold War, and “rumours of war” all coincided at that time with Biblical prophecy, as understood by Lindsey, and world events of the time perhaps produced the effect of the observable reality you mentioned.

    Over time I have met many who, far from being Bible believers, nonetheless have a fascination with end time eschatology. Even Hollywood noticed, and has obliged with myriad films that use the end time theme, including characterisations of the beast, to thrill and entertain. One has to admit, it’s good story, and because at times in anyone’s life what is thought to be reality turns out to be false, one important element of the story being that many at the end will be fooled, well …… could explain the obsession many have with things beyond the murky veil.

    I sorta wonder if the “available evidence suggests” downward trend beginning in the early 80’s depicts the beginning of what some call the post-modern era, which I suspect is a term deriving from the feminist movement’s gaining traction about that time and the subsequent introduction of theories that feelings can trump science. (I know, nobody wants to touch that one, but I’m an old guy and old guys rule and don’t scare easily).

  • Bill

    The genius of the ‘End Times’ theme of mass-produced Paulism (AKA organized evangelical Christianity) is that the idea that the world will come to an end soon…as in, your lifetime…can be a powerful attractor for the dissatisfied, the poor, the oppressed, those who feel purposeless. “Man are my oppressors gonna get theirs. I can’t wait.” The beauty is it can’t be disproven, except when some rank amateur makes the tyro mistake of predicting an actual date. The idea draws the unhappy like flies, and Too Big To Feel churchdom has always specialized in preying on these. It’s a key pillar of the Paulist brand.

  • Anonymous

    oBAMA DIDNT RUIN THE ECONOMY BUSH DID CLINTON HAD THE DEFICIET DOWN ARE YOU GUYS ILLITERATE OR WHAT LOOK AT EUROPE ITS FIXING TO HAPPEN HERE THEN ANTICHRIST COMES AND THE WORLD WILL WHORE AFTER HIM EXCEPT THE ELECT

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